The sermon by Bill Butterworth on being unforgettable jogged a special memory I would like to share.
Growing up, my grandpa was too busy to visit us. He lived in another state, and he was always working so hard that whenever we did receive a rare visit, my number one memory was that I had to be quiet so I didn't wake up grandpa in the other bedroom. Grandma on the other hand would fly out all the time, even one time when my parents were desperate for a babysitter for the weekend, she flew out to watch us. This left an unknowing confirmation in a child's heart that it wasn't the distance keeping grandpa from us. I believe you can only take so much of the belief that someone doesn't care about you before you start replicating that same feeling towards him or her. I experienced this with grandpa. If he didn't care enough about his grandchildren to visit, I wasn't going to care about what I was missing.
Years down the road when I was in my late teens, things began to change and grandpa was making visits with grandma. He'd come and try to talk with me, but he was a quiet man and a total stranger to me. I remember thinking, it's too late grandpa. You missed your time. You weren't here and now you've missed out. He was able to make some connection with my older brother who seemed to have a few more memories of grandpa than I did, but it wasn't working with me. Not that I didn't want it to work. I just didn't know anything about him. I didn't know him.
At 22, I got the news that grandpa had an aggressive cancer. It affected me that I might never have the chance to change the memories I had of him. So I bought my mom and I a ticket to spend 2 weeks in North Carolina with him and grandma. I wish I could say every moment was filled with the deep bonding our relationship had lacked and that we couldn't get enough of being together. But it was a process of us both allowing each other to get to know one another. There were special bright moments in that trip--when he told me how beautiful and grown-up I looked when I pinned my hair up for church, his smile as he watched me learn to clog on the dance floor as a little girl taught me the steps and the pride that seemed to swell in him when I learned so quickly. But most of all, the joy it gave him when a family crisis hit and my first instinct was to pray. I left with these new memories snuggled deep in my heart that I had finally gotten to know my grandpa.
But it wasn't until another year when he came out again to visit that he became unforgettable for me. He didn't give me the world or buy me some fancy gift. I could see in his face how much my visit meant to him, but the moment that changed everything was so simple.
I was standing in the kitchen, probably talking with some of my siblings. Grandpa came up and stood beside me. He slipped his arm around me and cupped my elbow in his hands. The touch was so gentle and safe. I could feel what he wanted to say, I love you, and never forget, I got my girl. Never had anyone cupped my elbow, let alone with the gentle love behind his touch. He became unforgettable for me in that moment and I will always remember the lesson that it is never too late. All you need is an open heart.
My fiance is the only other person who has ever cupped my elbow since. Grandpa is still alive and doing fairly well, and I look forward to having him there on my wedding day!